It was a council that was mean spirited and divisive right up to the end. Jack Dennison showed that he never did understand what elections are all about.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 16th, 2018



It was the last meeting of a city council first elected eight years ago.

It took place in make-shift space while a refurbished council chamber was being completed next door. Seen as a “lame duck” municipal government with a mandate that had mere weeks left, it was still fractional, and unable to work as a cohesive whole.

Council meetings traditionally end with members of Council speaking to concerns in their wards. In this instance they all chose to speak of their achievements during the eight years they served the public.

The Strategic Plans, which up until this council was first elected, were traditionally the plan that a Council was set for the four year term.

In 2011 city council decided to create a 25 year Strategic Plan that they expected other councils to follow. New city councils are not obliged to stick to that Plan created in 2011.

The Official Plan got sent off to the Region where it has to be approved to ensure that the city’s OP fits with the Regional OP. The problem with that is most of the newly elected council didn’t buy into the OP that was passed against the objections of the vast majority of the 30 + people who delegated before city council earlier in the year. That story isn’t over yet.

City manager James Ridge was absent; the city staff position, delivered by Deputy City Manager Mary Lou Tanner, was that council and staff had worked very well together.

If one were to define the issues that motivated many of those who elected a new municipal government, the disrespect many people felt the council had for the people who were delegating and the degree to which council relied on Staff reports that. Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and now Mayor Elect consistently pushed staff for answers. The other members of Council, for the most part, accepted the reports. Mayor Goldring did get better at asking questions during his second term.

It was clear to anyone watching the web cast that John Taylor is going to miss being a city Councillor. It had become the focus of his life – he is literally counting the days until he has to give up his parking spot and turn in his security pass – they will probably let him keep the one he has. Expect him to be on the phone on December 3rd, trying to resolve an issue for someone.  He said that being a city councillor was the :“Best job I ever had.”

Councillor Lancaster told her colleagues that the event she will remember most is the occasion when she repelled down the side of a 26 story tower.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison wasn’t quite ready to give up his job or accept the fact that he lost his election.

He had the temerity to say that: “A portion of my traditional support was taken away by the vote Marianne Team and my opponent with non-factual information with the result that the enjoyable honour I have had of serving my constituents and the city is over. I guess I am not too young to retire. See you around.”

It was a stunning, totally ungracious comment made at the last sitting of the current council at city hall.

The Dennison comments were followed by a few words from Councillor Lancaster who said the event she remembers most fondly was the day she repelled down the side of a 26 story building. Not sure where the value to the public was in that event.

Mayor Goldring closed out the comments by talking about what he felt had been achieved during the eight years he was the Chief Magistrate.

Mayor elect Meed Ward began to respond to the Dennison comment when the Mayor pointed out that comments were not debatable. Meed Ward replied that she wanted to make a”point of privilege” which the Mayor didn’t fully understand and turned to the Clerk for direction.

Meed Ward said she could help the Clerk and read out the section of the Procedural by law that states when the integrity, character or reputation of a member is made a “point of privilege” allows the member to draw attention to the remarks and the member has the right to respond.

She then proceeded to make the point that was really what the election was all about.

Meed Ward said “it was very unfortunate that a member made comments that were a personal attack. .

“We have seen enough of that.

“We saw it during the election

“We see it around this table

“It is a new day

“This stops here

“It stops tonight

“The new council will have respect for each other.

“Respect for the people and respect for staff”

It was a blunt direct statement from a woman who had to put up with at times disgraceful behavior on the part of every member of council.

No more.

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14 comments to It was a council that was mean spirited and divisive right up to the end. Jack Dennison showed that he never did understand what elections are all about.

  • Charles Jones

    Buh bye Jack! See you at my next car wash. Two words my friend: Road Diet!

  • Roger

    MMW is setting the tone for a new council – Blair and Jack lost touch with their wards and the pulse in the city – I will commend Paul Sharman – being the only one re-elected – understood engagement and was able to pivot to understand his ward – however collecting 39% of the vote in a Ward where the voter turn out was 40% – not a mandate but a victory – I wish our new Mayor the best – as for departing remarks – they are now much like the rest of us – just citizens – welcome back to the other side

  • Alan Iskiw

    The lack of grace in Dennison’s outgoing comments speak volumes. He lost my support when he used his position on council to subdivide a property he owns that did not conform to local zoning and was not consistent with other buildings in the residential community. Our departing mayor, I think, suffered from blandness which contributed to his exit. He was adequate as a caretaker mayor, keeping the status quo more or less, but did not really move the city forward. (Oh how I miss the Rob MacIsaac days.) I believe that MMW will listen to constiuents, provide leadership to a new council and help move Burlington into the next decade.

  • joe gaetan

    This is not the first time Mayor elect Meed Ward has had to rely on a point-of-privilege, to defend a principle. Hopefully it will be the last, but that is why we have rules of order. To those who seem to hold on to the misplaced notion that MMW is the problem, you may want to start by reading this,

  • Hans

    If there was any doubt about Dennison’s and Lancaster’s suitability to represent Burlington, their comments at the final meeting of council should dispel it.

  • Andrew Drummond

    I was very happy to see that Ms. Meed Ward fought to defend herself and thus the entire tone of council.

    Really excited to see a more collaborative effort from all of council for the next 4 years.

  • New Day Rising

    Dennison dug his own grave. No reason to blame anyone else. His knowledge and experience will be a loss though, until new councillors get a few years in.

    After many years on Council, Goldring doesn’t know this part of the procedural bylaw? Says a lot. I always thought he should have done more to nip this sort of behaviour in the bud and create a more respectful council chamber environment.

    Really looking forward to a new day in Burlington.

    • I think that some of the reason for the past dysfunctional Council rests with Rick Goldring’s inability to understand procedural rules and as a result he sometimes was a follower rather than the leader of the Council and the City.

      Jack Dennison’s experience and knowledge of how to represent himself rather than his constituents will not be a loss.

  • Don Fletcher

    It’s very sad to see those who have held public office for so long lacking grace in defeat and frankly being so “out of touch” with reality. We will have a few monuments (twin towers at Brant & James, and another at Lakeshore & Martha) to remember them by, but not with a lot of gratitude.

  • steven craig gardner

    i shall be curious to see this new council and how it works as the only chance I see is if they bow down to the new mayor as my many experiences with city hall in various volunteer roles was the new mayor was most disruptive and least team player towards city staff and in my case the public. Maybe getting what she wanted will change her. For the sake of Burlington i hope so.

  • Stephen White

    Good for Marianne for speaking up on a point of privilege! She captured the essence of what this election was all about, and the hope that many of us have for this City’s future. A class act!

    When your most memorable public service experience is repelling down a 26 storey tower one has to seriously wonder about the level of that member’s contribution. As for Councillor Dennison’s remarks, if he had a better grasp on the mood of his constituents then perhaps he would have been returned to Council. There were enough warnings, hints and premonitions that only the most naive of individuals couldn’t comprehend that change was afoot. He can label it “non-factual information” and concoct stories about subterfuge but at the end of the day it wasn’t him who was being maligned, disparaged and vilified by anonymous third parties, phoney public opinion surveys, and persons with ulterior motives.

  • Bill Carlton

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Jack.

  • Philip Waggett

    Note to Jack Dennison. As a resident of Ward 4 who voted for your opponent, I can state quite clearly that the reason you lost was that residents woke up to the fact that you represented yourself and some special interests, not your constituents. Please retire gracefully.

    • Marshall

      Note to Philip Waggett. Your note expresses my thoughts regarding Jack Dennison. Perhaps you are a little bit kinder and diplomatic than I might have been.